Achilles Tendon Taping – All You Need To Know
You’ve probably heard about Achilles tendon more than once. Named after the Greek mythological hero, it is one of the strongest and longest tendon in a human body. This tissue connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is crucial for walking, running or jumping.
When the calf muscles contract, this tendon lifts the heel and together they produce an action that allows us to stand on our toes, which is necessary for walking, running or jumping.
Although Achilles tendon can withstand a lot of stress, it is still very susceptible to injury. Limited blood supply and constant tension placed on it are the reasons for frequent injuries. Therefore, any physical activity that involves walking, running or jumping can cause an Achilles tendon injury.
Achilles tendonitis – The most common type of Achilles tendon injury
The most common type of Achilles tendon injury is Achilles tendonitis. It is an inflammation of Achilles tendon which causes pain, swelling and stiffness above your heel, especially when you are flexing your ankle or standing on your toes.
There are two types of Achilles tendonitis – insertional and noninsertional. Insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the area where the tendon is attached to the heel bone. Noninsertional affects middle area of an Achilles tendon and is more often in younger, active people.
Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury, caused by the repetitive stress to the tendon. Therefore, any physical activity that requires same repetitive action can cause tendonitis. Sudden increase in physical activity without the proper body adaptation or exercising without a proper warmup can also cause the inflammation.
There are other factors that contribute to Achilles tendonitis such as poorly fitting shoes, high heels, bone spur etc.
How to treat Achilles tendonitis?
The treatment for Achilles tendonitis depends on the severity of the injury. Less severe injuries can be treated with just a simple, home methods, while others require more invasive treatments like corticosteroid injections or surgery.
It is important to know that the more you wait to start your treatment, the more time will be needed to completely heal your injury.
- The first thing you should do as soon as possible is RICE therapy – rest, ice, compression and elevation. The point of this method is to reduce pain, swelling and stress on the tendon, so the tendon can start its healing process sooner. Generally speaking, inflammation is a normal, physiological reaction of any tissue to injury. However, if it lasts longer, the damage will be more severe and the regeneration will start later.
After this initial therapy, there are other methods that can be used in order to heal faster or prevent future injuries. Other treatments include:
- Supportive shoes, insoles and orthotics
The point of shoe insoles and orthotics is to reduce shock on the problematic area, relieving the pain in the Achilles tendon. Some of them also raise your heel. That way the Achilles tendon is shorter and takes less pressure during physical activities. Finding the right insoles or orthotics can be hard. That is why we’ve compiled a list of best insoles for Achilles tendonitis, as well as the list of best orthotics for Achilles tendonitis.
- Exercise and massage
There are various exercises that can strengthen the calf muscles and reduce stress on the Achilles tendon.
It is really important to reduce the load on the tendon as much as possible. Therefore, rest and elevation are crucial parts of the healing process. But what if you don’t have the time to rest and need to be on your feet as soon as possible? Fortunately, there is a solution for that – Achilles tendon taping.
What is an Achilles tendon taping?
Achilles tendon taping is a method in which athletic tape is applied directly to the skin of the lower limb in an adequate way, in order to stabilize the position of corresponding bones, muscles and joints.
This taping will support and reduce stress on the Achilles tendon, calf and ankle during activity. It can be used for treatment or prevention of Achilles tendon, calf and some ankle injuries.
Different types of tape
Not all athletic tapes work the same way. They usually differ in form and function. Most of them are non-elastic, giving you rigid support and greater immobilization. However, not all injuries require the same level of immobilization. That is why you should know about different types of tapes and their function.
1. Rigid tape
Rigid tape is stiffer and is better for a greater reduction of movement. It typically uses a zinc-oxide glue, which is why it is also known as zinc oxide tape. This type of glue adheres to the skin really strong. It is usually used in combination with an under tape. Under tape is kinder to skin and goes underneath the rigid tape.
2. Elastic tape
During your physical activities, certain groups of muscles contract and change in their size. Even when you want to restrict movements during injuries, you still want have certain amount of motion that is in a healthy range. This is where elastic tapes come to help. They give you more flexibility when applying it to your skin, muscles and joints.
3. Cohesive bandage
Cohesive bandage is a type that doesn’t contain glue. It is usually used for wrapping around a muscle or joint. Cohesive bandages give additional compression and immobilization.
4. Kinesiology tape
This type of tape is also known as kinesio tape, K tape or KT. They’ve become more popular in the past couple of years because of their usage by many athletes.
Difference between conventional athletic taping and kinesiology taping
There are two types of athletic taping, including Achilles tendon taping – kinesiology taping and conventional athletic taping. These techniques differ in method of application and function.
- Conventional taping
The point of conventional taping is to provide greater support and limit motion in an injured joint and muscles. Therefore, it is usually used for more severe injuries, where immobilization is necessary.
Conventional athletic taping uses more rigid tapes or combination of rigid and elastic tapes. This type of taping is usually finished with elastic bandage which wraps around injured area for additional protection and support.
The downside of this taping is that it creates compression on injured tissues, limiting both blood and lymphatic circulation and slowing down the healing process. That is why it should be used only for a short period of time.
- Kinesiology taping, kinesio taping or k taping
This method uses kinesio tapes that are very thin and elastic. They have hypoallergenic acrylic adhesive that prevents skin irritations.
Kinesio tapes can be applied in more than one way. The tapes can be applied over the injured area or along the borders of it. That way you can prevent unhealthy movements but still allow motion within healthy limits.
Because of their elastic properties, most kinesio tapings can be worn longer in comparison to other types of tapes. If applied properly, they can be worn 3 to 5 days.
What are the benefits of Achilles tendon taping?
If taping for Achilles tendonitis is done correctly, it can:
- Assist the healing process of Achilles tendonitis and other injuries
- Allow an earlier return to everyday and physical activities
- Prevent further injury
- Prevent Achilles tendon, calf and ankle injuries
The simplest ways to tape your Achilles tendon
There are various techniques for Achilles tendon taping. Some of them are more complicated and require more than one person for application. They also use different types of tapes or combination of them. That is why I will present you the two easier ways of taping for Achilles tendinitis in my opinion.
- The first method is kinesio taping technique, which is better for mild cases of Achilles tendon injuries and prevention. For this technique you need 2 kinesio tapes.
- The first tape goes vertically from the bottom of the heel all the way up to the higher part of the calf.
- The second smaller one goes horizontally at the swollen and painful area above the heel bone.
This way, you will limit unhealthy movements, but still be able to be on your feet with less pain.
- If you need more strict immobilization, the second technique is the way to go. This technique is more conventional. For this method you need a rigid and elastic tape.
- First, you need to apply two anchors – rigid tape anchor around the middle foot and elastic tape anchor around the calf muscles.
- Then, apply a strip of elastic tape from the foot to the calf anchor with a little bit of tension. It is important that you don’t stick the tape to the tendon.
- Finish off by applying strips of rigid tape over the top and bottom anchors to secure the loose ends. Don’t apply this tape all the way around the calf anchor as it doesn’t expand and will limit the contraction of the calf muscles and make bigger compression.
Achilles tendon injuries are usually not severe, but if you want it to heal properly, they do require an adequate treatment. As I’ve mentioned before, it is really important to offload the tendon in early stages of an injury. That will reduce the swelling and pain. Moreover, it will take less time for your tendon to heal.
There are various treatments for this type of injuries. RICE method is the first thing you should do as soon as possible. But if you need to be on your feet right after the injury, Achilles tendon taping is a great solution for this problem.
Ever since the adoption of kinesio tapes by many athletes, the usage of taping has become more popular among regular people. They are easy to apply, prevent unhealthy motions and reduce swelling and pain fast.
However, you should also know about more conventional, rigid techniques, especially if your injury is more severe and you need greater immobilization.
I hope that with this text I’ve thought you the basics of Achilles tendon taping and athletic taping in general, so the next time you overused your tendon, muscles and joint you will know what to do.
And remember, if you’re injury is not healing, go to a doctor. They will recommend you the best way to solve your injuries and prevent future injuries.